Tracking every cent...
I am a pretty open book about money. Indeed I created my blog and podcast to give me the freedom to explore any topic, mostly related to money, that I feel the need to chat about. I have always tended not to publish too many of my own numbers on my site, but if people email me I am always happy to share because by me telling them what my numbers are, they can relate that information directly to their own life and it helps them make a decision about how they are tracking.
Some write to me, laying out all of their facts and figures thinking that they have a steep hill to climb and then through just having the opportunity to talk about money with me they actually come to the realisation they are doing OK or are on the path to doing OK.
I say this again and again; having someone to talk through your finances with is invaluable because we can learn so much from each other, not in a judgemental way, not at all, just from the perspective of “what are you doing, and what can I learn from you”? It’s great to speak with your spouse about how much they spent on their hair or beer for the month but then being able to compare that expense with a friend adds a lot of value. I’ve just done up a budget for this blog and have worked out that I spend on average $15 per month on making myself look good. How does that compare with you? Many would perhaps take one look at me and suggest I should spend more… 😉
I keep a budget and have done for many years now, since 2009 in fact. When I first started it I was just tracking investments (the makeup of which has now changed heaps). So my list was pretty short:
- Managed Fund
- Bonus Bonds (aka my gateway to investing)
At the end of each month I would note on my GRAPH PAPER exactly how much we had in each fund. I always looked forward to the end of the month and using my neatest handwriting I would fill in my sheet, noting with an arrow if we were up or down compared with last month and the amount the totals had changed. Terribly exciting stuff and free entertainment for moi.
With everything else going on in our monetary lives, I didn’t take a single note about how much we spent on fuel, food or fun, my spreadsheet just covered investing. Wages came in, money went out, savings increased or decreased. It was all good. But then in September 2015 in a fit of tidying I decided to start tracking absolutely every cent that passed through our bank account. I can’t recall the exact reason why I started then but I created a spreadsheet listing our every financial movement. I suspect it was earthquake related as that would have been five years since all the earthquakes in Christchurch began and it pretty much took all of those five years to settle insurance, move to a different region, build a house and get our lives back in order. I suspect that creating a budget gave me a sense of control.
This time I took it online (fancy huh) and created a basic but adequate spreadsheet. I’ve shared it here before: How to rock a good spreadsheet...
And as I have said before it is a thing of wonder and beauty! Yeah/Nah, it’s just a simple spreadsheet but there is beauty in simplicity and knowing where your money went has proved to be a useful skill to learn.
Tracking every cent makes me calculate each and every time whether we made a good decision with our money. Money is hard to earn and easy to spend so I want to know that I use it as wisely as possible and not look at my bank account and wonder where the hell it all went. If you have any interest at all in getting off the hamster wheel of: working more, to earn more, to spend more, then you might find it interesting to take a look at my numbers below.
And before you cast your eye down the page just remember a couple of key points:
Don’t judge me, don’t mock me, don’t think negatively about where I spend. Because I am perfectly capable of being a harsh critic of myself...
Acknowledge, learn, observe and compare my numbers with your own and ask yourself if you are happy with where you spend your own money.
AVERAGE MONTHLY EXPENSES FOR MY FAMILY OF TWO ADULTS, ONE CHILD, ONE DOG, ONE CAT AND 4 QUAIL:
A few things to note:
- I have averaged most things over a 12 month period
- Our medical expenses are high at the moment due to Jonny snapping his achilles tendon and receiving a lot of weekly treatment
- I can’t believe we spend that much on clothes considering I don’t like clothes shopping! I buy second hand whenever possible and then we typically buy online for new stuff and I guess when you need clothes for 40°C heat and -10°C cold that takes up a bit of closet space! And every time I turn around my daughter has grown taller and suddenly she needs new clothes too!
- We use a fair bit of fuel over the course of a year because our central heating is run by diesel and to get to a major town it’s at least an hours drive. In the depths of winter it costs us about $50 per week to heat our entire house.
- Our savings vary month on month depending on our income but we average about 38% annually which I’m more than happy with given our incomes.
If I multiply our average cost per month by 12 then it tells me that we need about $42,000 per year to keep the lights on and our tummies more than full. Would I like to see this lower? Yes, of course I would BUT creating a budget is a delicate balance between living like a frugal hermit and living a really enjoyable life. We choose the latter.
Jonny and I both work part time and by doing so we make the choice to restrict our income. We are both more than capable of working more and by doing so we could go on more overseas holidays which we love to do, and contribute more to our savings and completely retire at an even earlier age.
On Tuesday at 3.30pm we had some retired friends over and were having a coffee and discussing retirement, frugality etc and to me that situation summed it up for me. Having the ability and freedom to sit and chat “when I should be working” on Tuesday afternoon is what it is all about. It is the simple things and on that day it was the freedom to just have a chat with no pressure to be anywhere else but right there.
Jonny and I spent many years working a 40 plus hour week but by doing that now we think we would miss out of living a good life TODAY. And we have some pretty full on discussions about our work life balance I can assure you!
So to finish I’ll say it AGAIN: Don’t judge me, don’t mock me, don’t think negatively about where I spend my money or what I do with my time. Because I am perfectly capable of being a harsh critic of myself...
Acknowledge, learn, observe and compare my numbers and my choices with your own and ask yourself if you are happy with where you spend your own money and where you spend your time.
We only get one shot at life, and none of us are going to make it out of it alive so all I have to say is that you make sure you are happy with where you find yourself today and if you are not, make a few changes. Knowing exactly where you save and spend your money is crucial information to help you make those changes.
In the words of my late Dad, a larger than life Aussie bloke, who passed away just last December, I want to make sure that EVERY day is “bloody marvellous” and I suggest we should all try to do the same.